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New kids on the emerging block

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Support

Over the last six months our Emerging Technologies programme has run competitions in three of the areas we are supporting:

  • Biofilms
  • Graphene
  • Non-animal technologies (NAT)

Each attracted a large number of high quality applications and these are a few of the projects, which were successful and are now getting underway.

It’s clear that winning projects typically encompass some of the critical elements in commercialising a technology: a partner that can provide a route to market and, in some cases, a Research and Technology Organisation (RTO) to bridge the gap between academia and industry.

Biofilms and reducing food poisoning

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK with 80% of cases arising from contaminated poultry and approx. 280,000 people succumbing every year, of whom 100 die. A survey by the Food Standards Agency reported widespread contamination last year:

  • 19% of chickens tested positive for Campylobacter within the highest band of contamination
  • 73% of chickens and 7% of packaging tested positive for the presence of Campylobacter.

Packaging that fights back

Now a company from Normanton in West Yorkshire, Parkside Flexibles, has been awarded a grant to investigate the feasibility of controlling the biofilms, which harbour both Camplylobactor and Salmonella. The company understands this market well, offering a wide range of packaging solutions to the sector with a long history of innovation.

Together with partners Sci-Tech Adhesives, Banham Poultry, The Institute for Food Research and Bangor University the project will investigate the potential to integrate natural products into food packaging and in cleaning. The company has experience of natural products having recently launched a range of paper and films that are fully accredited to EN13432 and Vincotte OK Compost Standards for both home and industrial composting of packaging.

Graphene as an anti-corrosion coat

Each year, it is estimated that corrosion costs the UK economy £10 billion a year in the repair, maintenance and replacement of structures. Organic coatings loaded with hazardous or environmentally unfriendly metals such as zinc and chromates are commonly used to protect such structures before they reach a point of no return. The high toxicity of these metals and regulations such as REACH which are designed to reduce their usage are strong drivers to find alternative ‘green’ solutions.

Graphene could be a suitable alternative and Project GRACe, led by Applied Graphene Materials, will investigate and develop the potential of graphene based anti-corrosive coatings. In addition, the project will also examine the use of graphene in fire retardant, protective coatings.

Just like the project above led by Parkside Flexibles, this project includes a potential route to market through Sherwin-Williams, a leader in protective and marine coatings with a track record in introducing ‘green’ alternatives to the market and The Welding Institute, an RTO with a long history of research on corrosion.

Non-Animal Technologies (NATs)

Human life has become increasingly dependent on the use of chemical and biological substances to promote health, prosperity and wellbeing. The companies that develop and manufacture the following types of products provide significant economic benefit:

  • pharmaceuticals
  • veterinary medicines
  • agrichemicals
  • chemicals and consumer products.

Companies are, however, faced with major challenges in meeting the sometimes-conflicting demands for innovative and effective products, improved consumer safety and greater environmental protection.

It means the safety and efficacy of their products must be tested, and this has traditionally been based on animal studies.

Replacing animal testing and driving economic growth

In the longer term Non-Animal Technologies could potentially replace the use of animals for these purposes. We identified NATs as one of a series of emerging technologies with the potential to drive future UK economic growth. The UK has world-leading research in this area and companies, large and small, with the ability to take advantage of new commercial opportunities.

Cancer and tumour growth

One example of this potential is cancer studies and the impact different therapies can have on tumour growth. In order to investigate the factors involved in malignant transformation, invasion and metastasis, as well as to examine the response to therapy, human tumour cells are often transplanted into immuno-compromised mice that do not reject human cells.

Replacing these ‘xenografts’ with a Non-Animal Technology is a long term goal and Asterand recently won funding under our latest NAT competition to develop a physiologically relevant 3D in-vitro model of human cancer tumours using novel 3D cell culture methodologies and genetically stable human tumour cell lines. Working with Dr Neil Cross of Sheffield Hallam University, the aim is to generate a test platform suitable for the identification and in-depth characterisation of anti-cancer compounds, which will offer an improvement on current xenograft models.

Cancer and tumour growth
Cancer and tumour growth

Latin 101 - In-vivo/vitro/silico

Scientists bandy these terms around assuming we all understand what they mean so, if you don’t, here is a quick explanation.

  • In-vivo: Latin for ‘within the living’ refers to experiments in which whole, living organisms are used (think cell, animal, plant or person).
  • In-vitro: Latin for ‘within the glass’ refers to procedures performed in a controlled environment but outside a living organism (think test tube).
  • In-silico: is the latest addition and was first used in 1989 to mean ‘performed on a computer or using computer simulation’ (think computer chip).

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